By Larry Kline/Havre Daily Newsfirstname.lastname@example.org
The long search for a new owner for the Heritage Center has finally come to an end. The Havre City Council accepted a bid of $40,001 from Todd Hanson and Erica McKeon-Hanson on Monday night.
The Hansons plan to spend $200,000 to rehabilitate the former U.S. post office and courthouse and turn it into a home for an art gallery, restaurant and brew pub, retail store and office space. Havre City Council members had glowing remarks about the Hansons' bid, which included a detailed plan for improvements to the structure and a description of possible tenants.
The couple wants to reroof the building, add energy-efficient storm windows and upgrade the heating system. The Hansons submitted a letter of intent from the Plains Indian Gallery of Western Art and Artifacts. The gallery is currently without a home, and curator Larry Dale Singer said in the letter the gallery is prepared to enter into a mulit-year rental agreement.
The Hansons plan to have a restaurant modeled after the historic Grand Union Hotel dining room in Fort Benton. They also plan to expand NorsMan, their customer-direct custom, antique and collectible firearms and accessories business, into a full-fledged retail operation.
"In a very short period of time, what has always been a prominent structure will become a cornerstone of the revitalization of downtown Havre," Todd Hanson told council members.
Council member Emily Mayer Lossing noted her longtime involvement in historic preservation and said she was more than satisfied with the bid. Mayer Lossing had unsuccessfully urged the council to put the question of whether the city should keep the Heritage Center on the ballot.
"I am thoroughly impressed," Mayer Lossing said. "This is a proposal that even I can accept. I wish the Hansons all of the luck."
Council president Rick Pierson said he had spoken with Hanson and was satisfied with his plans to keep the landmark as an active part of downtown Havre.
Council member Pam Hillery asked Hanson if he had made any progress toward securing the extra financing to perform the necessary improvements. He said he had.
"The funding is absolute," Hanson said. "All of the bookwork's been done. The paperwork is in the process of being completed as we speak."
Hanson, who is a member of the Havre school board, said he had been working with Bear Paw Development Corp. to secure the financing.
He added that he has copies of the original historical covenants that have been placed on the building. Hanson said he wished to thank the mayor and City Council members for the opportunity to open the next chapter in the Heritage Center's history.
Two other bids were received by the city. Shephanie Chia of Stanwood, Wash., submitted a bid of $35,000. Craig Rundle of Havre submitted a bid of $37,500.
The city used $89,600 in funding from the Community Transportation Enhancement Program to purchase the historic building in 1996. The building was leased by the Clack Foundation until July 1, when the group said it could no longer afford to operate it. Money from the sale will return to CTEP.
The city accepted bids to purchase the building four times before it finally found an offer it could accept.